Left to our own devices, many of us could quite easily bypass the ‘system' in order to get our own way and so secure at least something that resembles good service – particularly from those providers we love to hate. I have recently discovered a way to ensure, when getting onto an airline, the best possible response to my needs as a customer.
Unfortunately for some of the airlines concerned, this did not involve joining, or deriving benefit, from any of their loyalty programmes.
Previously, I have taken great pains in trying to uncover why some consumer service providers, and in particular the airline carriers, are not always able to measure up to their customers' expectations. It seems that even with all their back-end systems, reams of information about customers, costly marketing efforts and loyalty programmes firmly in place, these providers still rarely hit the mark.
Our right to endorse
But, travel we must. Who we chose to spend our money with, however, remains our privilege and our right to endorse or not. I don't, for example, eat red meat. But I'm also not a vegan or vegetarian, lactose intolerant or halaal for that matter, and would simply like to ensure I get ‘the chicken or the fish' without too much trouble.
While there is always the option of pre-booking a vegetarian meal, for example, the upshot is typically bland and unappetising. And, ticking “halaal” certainly doesn't guarantee I won't get the red meat.
All I really require is good, basic service. After all, I've spent money with the provider. But even with all the loyalty trappings of commercial air travel, I still can't seem to always secure the chicken via conventional routes.
Mostly, I expect my fairly simple request, made long before meals are served, to be honoured. I certainly don't expect to be met with a blunt attitude of “You should have booked the chicken”, “What colour member card are you?” or, worse, being told “You're in the wrong class, what do you expect me to do?”
It's worth mentioning that Quantas and Emirates are the exceptions, where servicing a ‘favour' doesn't result in complete bafflement. For this, I consider their service phenomenal and will fly with them again and again.
Impossible to segment
While loyalty programmes are implemented to, in fact, secure customer loyalty, it's virtually impossible to segment to a one-to-one customer level. The lowest common denominator that does go for any loyalty programme, however, is the fact that the customer has spent money with you. And so, I expect them to return a minimum hygiene factor which starts with great service and getting what I want.
A loyalty programme, in itself, is not going to endear me to the brand. In fact, without these basic hygiene factors in place, the loyalty element remains a gross misnomer.
What I have discovered is that I can secure the chicken or the fish by simply making ‘friends' with the steward in my compartment early on. The fact that I don't eat red meat is easily slipped into the conversation among the banter and, in this way, my request is given the nod. It works like clockwork.
It really shouldn't matter if you're a platinum, blue or any other tier customer; you're still a customer whichever way you look at it who has the potential to spend more in future. Staff at the coalface should really be trained to respect this fact, and at least do the occasional favour – or at least until they become wise to my ways.
Nici Stathacopoulos is CEO of marketing services agency proximity#ttp (www.proximityttp.co.za), a a joint venture between Proximity Worldwide, The Tipping Point and BBDO SA that focuses on breaking through behaviour changing ideas. She is also a Loeries Awards board member and John Caples Awards country chair. Contact her on tel +27 (0)11 447 7093 or email .
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